Suspension of training for Championship and League 1 sides “a big blow” says Bradford and Dewsbury’s Mark Sawyer

BRADFORD Bulls acting chief executive Mark Sawyer admits news that Championship clubs will stop training for the next fortnight due to the latest national lockdown is a “big blow” and he worries whether the season will now kick-off on time.

Concerned: Mark Sawyer who is chairman of Championship club Dewsbury Rams and acting chief executive at fellow second tier side Bradford Bulls.

Championship and League 1 clubs are classed as “elite” sports so – despite the Government announcement on Monday – they were under the impression that they could continue preparations as normal as they prepare for the start of the new season on February 27/28.

However, the Rugby Football League has “advised” them to “pause their pre-season training programmes for the next two weeks, in recognition of the national crisis” which has left many of those involved fearing what may come next. Championship and League 1 clubs have not played any games since last March and Sawyer – who is also the chairman of Bradford’s Champioinship rivals Dewsbury Rams – said: “It is a real blow.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“All the players and staff at Bradford had been tested (on Monday) and everyone gave negative tests so they were looking forward to increasing their training this week. That was great news and Dewsbury were due to test tonight (Tuesday) so we were hoping for the same again.

“But we got to know at 3.30 today that we had to stop training from 4.30 onwards.

“Some of the players turned up at Dewsbury early to start having the test and to hear this news is just a big blow to people’s spirit.

“There’s no clear direction as to when people will be back in training and you’d be foolish not to worry about that season start date now. We’ve not got a lot of time to play with especially now with these two weeks being taken out of action.”

The RFL said the pause in training “will allow detailed discussions with clubs, before the publication of fixtures – which will be delayed, as will the draw for the first two rounds of the Challenge Cup, until a further announcement later this month.”

Academy and Scholarship programmes will also be suspended, and Betfred Women’s Super League clubs will be advised to pause their pre-season training programmes – although it is hoped the England Women and Wheelchair squads will continue with their training camps.

Community rugby league, due to resume at youth and open age level this month, is suspended under Government rules.